From the Author of the Sunday Times Bestseller, Mrs. England!
In 1612 Lancaster, England, the hunt for witches has reached a fever pitch…
But in a time of suspicion and accusation, to be a woman may be the greatest risk of all.
Fleetwood Shuttleworth, the mistress of Pendle Hill’s Gawthorpe Hall, is with child. Anxious to produce an heir, she is distraught to find a letter from her physician that warns her husband she will not survive this pregnancy.
Devastated, Fleetwood wanders the estate grounds, where she catches a young woman poaching. Alice Gray claims she is a local midwife and promises to help Fleetwood deliver a healthy baby. But a witch-obsessed frenzy sweeps the countryside. Even woodland creatures or “familiars” are thought to be dark companions of the unholy. And Alice soon stands accused of witchcraft.
Time is running out. The witch trials are about to begin. With both their lives at stake, Fleetwood must prove Alice’s innocence. Only they know the truth.
Set against the real Pendle witch trials, this compelling novel draws its characters from historical figures as it explores the lives of seventeenth-century women. Ultimately it raises the question: Was witch hunting really just women hunting?
Halls's enthralling debut opens in 1612, when lonely Fleetwood Shuttleworth, mistress of Gawthorpe Hall in England, is only 17 and pregnant for the fourth time, and, because of a letter her husband received from a physician, she has good reason to believe that she and her baby will not survive. Her failure to give her husband Richard an heir weighs on her, and with him frequently away, she relies on her loyal French mastiff Puck for companionship. Then she meets quiet, strange midwife Alice Gray, who ensures Fleetwood she can help her deliver a healthy, living child. Soon, Alice is arrested for murder and swept up in a vicious witch hunt. Devastated by Alice's imprisonment and reeling from the discovery that Richard is keeping a pregnant mistress in her supposedly abandoned childhood home, Fleetwood sets out to save the life of the only woman who can save hers and the only true friend she's ever had. Fleetwood, who narrates, paints a portrait of her life and friendship with Alice that is often imbued with a sense of the otherworldly, depicting a pivotal bond they forged in a time when women had little agency over their lives, their bodies, or their fates. Set against the furor leading up to the Pendle witch trials, Halls's winning novel is a quietly powerful and richly evocative tale.
Not sure how I came across this book. But it is a page turner for sure.